Allegations regarding Rotherham child sex abuse scandal had defamatory meaning


Re: Barron MP & Anor v Vines (Rev 1) [2015] EWHC 1161 (QB)

This case concerned an action for libel and slander arising from a television interview broadcast in Jan 2015. The claimants issued applications challenging the defendant’s accusations that they knew about the child sexual exploitation in Rotherham.

The Court held that the words complained of bore a defamatory meaning about each of the claimants which the defendant did not successfully and cannot defend as true. Warby J also stated that the words contained a defamatory expression of the opinions about the claimants which is substantially identical to the meaning they complained of, and the defendants accepted it as untenable.

However Warby J felt the defendant should have a final opportunity to take professional advice on whether he may have an arguable defence of publication in the public interest under the Defamation Act 2013, s 4, before he decided whether to grant a summary judgment. He stated that as the new defence has yet to be subject to any decision it is unclear how the meaning of the wording of the statute could be interpreted. However it could be the case that the defence is based on a reasonable belief that it is in the public interest to make a statement even if the words used unintentionally convey another meaning.

Gavin Millar QC was involved in this case.